MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledged the occurrence of extrajudicial killings linked with his war on drugs and said he intends to investigate them.
"Sigurado ako may sinalvage, sigurado ako diyan, and we will investigate," he said on Thursday, August 4, during an environment summit in Davao City.
(I am sure there are salvage victims, I am sure of that, and we will investigate.)
Duterte spent a bulk of his speech talking about his administration's campaign against illegal drugs. He had been explaining how some 470,000 drug addicts have already surrendered and how the fight must be sustained to save the Philippines from being a "fractured country."
While "salvage" in English means "to save", in Filipino it is also slang for summary killings or deaths that occur under mysterious circumstances.
While around 300 drug suspects have been killed in police operations, there have also been many drug-related deaths in the past months that happened mysteriously.
In some cases, bodies were found in alleyways or side streets with signs identifying them, supposedly, as a drug addict, pusher, or drug lord.
In others, persons who did not fit the profile of a drug suspect were shot at. Relatives of these victims insisted they were just at the wrong place, at the wrong time. (READ: Drug user? No, Oman was a good son and Lauren Rosales: Don't remember her as the girl killed in a jeep)
'Suspects fought back'
After saying he would have such cases investigated, Duterte defended the police in cases when drug suspects were killed during their operations.
Duterte, echoing the police, insisted that the drug suspects fought back thereby forcing the police to use deadly force.
"'Yang ganoon, may baril talaga 'yan, at maniwala ka diyan sa mga pulis na 'yan," he said. (They really have guns, believe what the police say.)
Duterte said police are placed in a very dangerous situation when facing a suspect whose brains are addled with drugs.
"Lumalaban talaga 'yan, kaya lang siyempre ang pulis, ang kalaban niya bangag, cannot even shoot straight," he said.
(They really fight, and of course the police, the enemy is not in his right mind and cannot even shoot straight.)
The President even said he learned the previous night that a chief of police had been shot during an anti-illegal drugs operation.
He said he plans to pass by the hospital to visit the policeman before going to his office in the Malacañang of the South in the Panacan district.
Duterte's war on drugs has earned criticism from human rights groups who allege it has encouraged the killing of drug suspects without due process.
The police said all drug suspects killed during their operations fought back. The rise in number of extrajudicial killings that accompanied the war on drugs is due to drug syndicates killing each other, said the police. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.